October 17, 2011
Ngawang Sangdrol

Ngawang Sangdrol, Photo: H. Valentine


New York, NY– On Wednesday, November 16, at 7:00pm, American Opera Projects, in association with the Rubin Museum of Art, will present scenes from Numinous City, a new multimedia opera by British composer Pete M. Wyer based on the extraordinary true story of Tibetan nun Ngawang Sangdrol. The evening will also feature Ms. Sangdrol as part of an artist panel discussion, moderated by John Schaefer (WYNC’s Soundcheck). In addition, Ms. Sangdrol will lead an intimate guided tour of the Rubin Museum’s collection of Himalayan art. Soprano Sara Heaton stars with music direction by Mark Shapiro. The event will be held at the Rubin Museum of Art. Tickets are $18-$45, available at

Numinous City is inspired by the true story of Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun imprisoned at 14 years-old. Sangdrol, along with other nuns, recorded songs in prison on a smuggled cassette player, the fame of which ultimately led to her release and immigration to Brooklyn, New York. The title ‘Numinous City’ is a reference to the unseen forces, spiritual, emotional and political, that influence her paths.


American Opera Projects, in association with the Rubin Museum of Art, presents

Numinous City
Opera scenes with panel discussion
Music and text by Pete M. Wyer
Sara Heaton, soprano
Mark Shapiro, music director
Ngawang Sangdrol, panel guest
John Schaefer, panel moderator

Wednesday, November 16
Rubin Museum of Art
150 W. 17 St
New York, NY 10011

5:00 p.m. – Guided tour of Rubin Museum by Ngawang Sangdrol
6:00 p.m. – Pre-concert reception
7:00 p.m. – Numinous City concert with panel discussion
Post-concert – Off site reception hosted by International Campaign for Tibet

Tickets: $18-$45,
Complete Info:

About the Artists

Pete M. Wyer (composer): London based composer Pete M. Wyer has written music for the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Juilliard School, BBC television and many others. Since 2006 he has developed, at the National Theatre studio, a major opera-theatre project based on the events of the Moscow Theatre Siege, with director Phyllida Lloyd (Ring Cycle for English National Opera, Peter Grimes, Opera North, Mamma Mia stage and film productions) playwright Bryony Lavery (Frozen, Stockholm) and artist John Keane. He has written the libretti for four opera/music-theatre works, including the hit Johnny’s Midnight Goggles (2008) and has created work for English National Opera, Welsh National Opera, Opera North and the Tete a Tete Opera Festival. His hour-long collaboration with poet Steve Dalachinsky ‘Insomnia Poems’ was recorded by BBC Radio 3 and chosen for the ‘Best of 2009’. He also won ‘Best Composer’ at the Fringe Report Awards, London in 2011.  A volume of poetry ‘The Dance around the Fire’ is published by Alternating Current in 2012.

Sara Heaton (soprano) has captivated audiences earlier this year as Miranda in the US premiere of Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers at the A.R.T. in Boston and with Chicago Opera Theater. In 2012, Sara will return to Chicago Opera Theater to sing the role of Lidochka in Shostakovich’s Moscow, Cheryomushki.

Mark Shapiro (music director) is one of a handful of conductors in North America to have won a prestigious ASCAP Programming Award four times. Shapiro enjoys working with orchestras, opera companies, and choruses. He is Artistic Director of Cantori New York and the Monmouth Civic Chorus, and in 2011 was appointed Music Director of the Saint Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra in New York City, where he will lead in two concerts in Carnegie Hall during 2011-12.

Ngawang Sangdrol was 14-years old when she was detained in 1992 and imprisoned for peacefully demonstrating against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. In Drapchi prison she continued to peacefully advocate for her beliefs while her sentence extensions mounted: her term spiked from an initial 3-year sentence to a combined sentence of 23 years—a result of sentence extensions within prison. She remained an irrepressible champion of human rights and non-violence in spite of the daunting obstacles she faced. In 1994, Ngawang Sangdrol and 13 other nuns clandestinely recorded songs and poems in tribute to their homeland and His Holiness the Dalai Lama from inside Drapchi prison. The recording made it out of Tibet and the international community heard the haunting songs tell of the hardships of prison life and the women’s undying cry for freedom. The international attention to this material led to her release in 2002.


American Opera Projects’ mission is to champion innovative works of music theater, to expand the art form, and to identify, develop and present new works by emerging and established talent. Numinous City is the latest opera in AOP’s First Chance series that presents concert performances of new operas in an intimate format that allows for direct conversation between audience and artist. Operas to receive fully-staged premieres after passing through AOP’s First Chance development program include Séance on a Wet Afternoon (New York City Opera, Opera Santa Barbara), Before Night Falls (Fort Worth Opera), and the upcoming Heart of Darkness (London’s Royal Opera House), among many others.

The Rubin Museum of Art provides an immersive environment for the exploration of Himalayan art and culture and its connections to contemporary life and ideas through innovative exhibitions, dynamic programs, and diverse educational opportunities. The only museum in the U.S. dedicated to Himalayan art, the museum holds one of the world’s most important collections of the paintings and sculptures of Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, and Bhutan, and provides a bridge between the cultures of the region and other cultures worldwide. In addition to exhibitions, the Rubin’s programming encompasses dialogues, films, performances, and more, offering multiple entry-points for understanding and enjoying the art of the Himalayas. The shop and café at the Rubin are also inspired by the varied cultures of the region, completing the visitors’ experience.  For more information, including hours and location, visit

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